Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More books!

Yeah! The mail came, the mail came!

Doesn't take much to excite us some days but DS and I were both dancing around when DH came in from work last night. He'd been by the post office that afternoon and there were three packages for us. Three, count'em, three!

We were ready for bed so all we did was open them to see which orders had come through but first thing this morning, DS started in on the first book in a new Star Wars series he's discovered. The series is by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta and titled "Young Jedi Knights." The book DS received is the first in the series, "Heirs of the Force."

He found what turned out to be the fourth book in the series at the library book sale last week. Devoured it in two days (not bad for a 7yo!) and then when we looked in the library catalog we discovered the rest of the set of 14 available -- except for the first one in the series! So I turned to bookfinder.com and found the first book at Half.com. At the rate he's reading, I think he's going to finish it tonight so we picked up the next five books in the series while we were at the library this afternoon.

The other two packages were ostensibly for me but DS was still excited about at least one. I ordered three more Dinah Zike books for our homeschool collection: Dinah Zike's Big Book of Science for Elementary K-6, Dinah Zike's Big Book of Social Studies (Elementary K-6), and Dinah Zike's Big Book of United States History. He's enjoyed the things we've done using her other books and I thought I could use another boost her books always provide.

They can be hard to find, tho, with Amazon only carrying a couple. I usually order from her site, Dinah-Might Adventures, but this time I found them on eBay from a storefront that carried several titles by Zike and offered free shipping if I purchased more than two books.

The other package was a paperback by Sue Gregg and Emilie Barnes that I ordered from Half.com, too. It's titled "The 15-Minute Meal Planner: A Realistic Approach to a Healthy Lifestyle".

I have a set of Sue Gregg's cookbooks that I really like. They're a little heavy-going at first but I've found quite a few recipes I wouldn't want to be without. Especially her Blender Oatmeal Pancakes. Talk about fiber -- and delicious! DH says he could eat them a couple of times a week and I don't feel bad about fixing them either as they're pretty good for us, too.

Thing is, I don't know that it was essential I have this book but it's mentioned several times in the 7-volume set that I have and every so often I run up against a reference to a recipe that's only included in this particular book. And I tend to be a completionist or whatever LibraryThing calls those of us who feel the need to own all of an author's works. I'm not always that bad, tho -- for example, I only own 10 (the 7 Basic cookbooks plus "Four Food Storage Plans," "Yeast Breads," and "Holiday Menus") plus this new one. I'm sure she has several other books available -- somewhere.

Blender Oatmeal Pancakes

1-3/4 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
2 tbs oil (olive oil preferred)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats, uncooked (this is the same as Quaker Oats Old-fashioned oats in the cannister)
2 tbs sucanat or regular white granulated sugar (optional - Gregg suggests crystallized fructose as an option, too)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

Place the first 5 ingredients in a blender container and blend at high speed for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix in thoroughly, but briefly, using blender or rubber spatula.

Bake on moderately hot griddle or in hot waffle iron for waffles. Makes about 16 4" cakes.
The recipe is correct as written -- it calls for no flour, just old-fashioned oatmeal. At times when I'm out of buttermilk, I have substituted a plain yogurt thinned with a bit of water in place of the buttermilk. About 1 or 1-1/4 cups yogurt plus 3/4 or 1/2 cup water as needed to make the total of 1-3/4 cups called for in recipe.

The 2-min blend is essential to getting the recipe to work. The first few times I tried this, I did not let the blender run the full time and couldn't understand why the pancake batter was so-o-o runny. Ended up adding as much as 1/2-cup flour each time. Finally I decided to set the timer and actually "follow the recipe" (a novel idea for me) and, voila! It works like a charm.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What's for dinner the week of January 29?

The freezer needs to be defrosted so we've been trying to clear it out by planning menus around its contents rather than what's on special at the grocery this week. Making some headway but it can get boring without forethought.

Today I grabbed a pound of sweet Italian sausage, a quart of pork broth (from cooking a fresh pork shoulder in the roaster oven a few weeks ago), 10 boneless chicken thighs, a package of cheese ravioli, 6 cups of chopped red cabbage, 4 leftover hamburger buns, some dressing, and 6 pork chops I cut from a large boneless pork loin purchased back in October. (Always seems to be the least expensive way to have chops around here.) These things will be the basis of several days (most of the week?) worth of meals and hopefully give DH a few frozen MREs for dinners at work.

I pulled the casing off the Italian sausage and tossed it into a pot with some chopped onions. Broke up the meat as it sizzled, adding about a cup of sliced mushrooms along the way, then drained off the oil. Next I poured in 2 quarts of home-canned plum tomatoes along with their juice and added a teaspoon of kosher salt and black pepper. A mini-muffin-sized chunk of frozen homemade pesto went into the pot along with a 1/2 tsp. or so of dried oregano after the other ingredients had simmered for about 45 minutes. I left that to simmer on low while I boiled the mini-cheese ravioli and added them to the soup pot just before serving. Yum! It was pretty good for a throw-it-in-the-pot-as-you-go recipe.

The hamburger buns helped round out the meal a bit as I spread garlic butter on their cut sides and heated them in the toaster oven till browned. DS peeled carrots and prepped celery to go along with the main dish and we called it done!

The chicken is thawing in the fridge for tomorrow's cooking spree (tho all I know at the moment is whatever I fix will include the dressing as an ingredient) and I'm going to brown the chops and make an oven dish a la Barbara Goodfellow and her Make It Now, Bake It Later! recipes. (A friend gave me the original books years ago but it's nice to see there's an updated book available as some of the original recipes had become very dated!)

Oh, the pork broth went into a small slow cooker with 2 quarts of home-canned green beans and a little kosher salt. I added 4 (still unsprouted! Yay!) homegrown potatoes (chopped) to the pot after the first hour or so on high and they're done now and ready to cool for fridge storage. The beans will be reheated for lunch and/or dinner tomorrow.

And in the morning the red cabbage will be simmered in its own thawed juice along with a little chopped onion and a couple of diced apples (peels still attached). I'll add about 3 tbs cider vinegar and the same amount of sucanat (or brown sugar) after the cabbage is tender and let it simmer another 15 minutes or so. Then serve it for lunch with either the chicken or pork chops -- whatever sounds best at the time of decision.

Dinosaurs rule!

Well, we spent Saturday at the Smithsonian. Specifically the Museum of Natural History. Yes, 7 y.o. DS is wild about dinosaurs and has been for several years. I finally caved in and we're working our way through the several dozen dinosaur books on his bookshelves -- creating a unit study as we go.

We drove up to Vienna early Saturday morning and took the Metro into D.C. DS is also a train fanatic and as this was his first ride on a subway, he was ecstatic. DH leaned over the seat at one point during the ride and whispered to me to take a look at DS's expression. His grin was so big it practically split his face and, oh!, the starry look in his eyes! Well, it was one of those moments that parents live for, I gotta say.

Then came the museum. T-Rex skeleton, diplodocus, triceratops and more. We about 3 hours before hungry overcame us and we had a decent lunch in the museum's basement cafeteria. The afternoon went by fast and tho we made it through the mammal exhibit and even managed to look at a few meterorites, it was soon time to go.

The ride back to Vienna was interesting as the subway was packed due to a rally held on the Mall earlier in the day. As usual the platform appeared packed till we managed to work our way past the crowds huddled around the bottom of the steps. (Why don't people spread out on those platforms? Must be related to the way cars always clump together on a highway...) Anyway, we ended up boarding the second train to come through the station going our way, so there was a slight delay. DS didn't care for the crowds and I guess I really can't blame him as he so very rarely runs into groups that large since we live out in the country with open space so available.

Most of the people traveling our direction were headed for the stops near the end of the line with commuter parking so we stood for the trip amongst a group traveling to meet a charter bus, having come in for the rally. DH couldn't resist asking a man standing behind me, wearing an Iowa Hawkeyes sweatshirt, if he was from Iowa. Turned out he was from a town just down the road 20 miles or so from where DH grew up so they enjoyed a chat during which we learned his group was from near Charlottesville so that almost makes them neighbors. I love coincidences like that!

After a car picnic of crackers, cheese and fruit, DS managed to fall asleep on the almost 3-hr. ride home. (Yay! That doesn't happen often!) DH and I took advantage of the time and turned the car stereo full to the front so we could listen to a few old favorite cds. Started with one of DS's favs while he was still awake -- C W McCall's Greatest Hits. From there we went to Roger Miller with all those great sing-along songs he recorded. Next up was a little bit from the Flatlanders but it was getting late enough that I needed something a little more driving to keep me awake, kwim? So DH popped in the soundtrack from Dazed and Confused

Okay, now we were awake and groovin' -- plus this soundtrack always gets us into a discussion of past lives. DH grew up in Iowa and graduated from high school in 1984 while I, being the elder partner in this marriage, came of age in the late 70's . Makes for some interesting flashbacks when we get the chance. More on that later.

Got home before too late and DS immediately woke up demanding to call his nearby grandmother to tell her of the trip and confirm their plans for Sunday afternoon. Ah! Home is good.